Nick Markakis may be the most loved Orioles player in recent years. He’s been in the organization from the dark days of the 2000’s to the resurgence of the club in the last few seasons. Prior to the club’s recent success, the talent that surrounded was sub-par. Now, with players such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman, Markakis has gotten lost in the crowd. This influx of talent, combined with the fact that Markakis has started on a decline, has led me to believe he is “replaceable.”
I put replaceable in quotes because his on the field production can be replaced, but not his presence on the club or influence on the fans. I went to game one of the ALDS against the Tigers and during one of Markakis’ at bats, the fans started to chant “NICK MAR-KA-KIS”, i.e. the “DE-REK JE-TER” chants we have all become familiar with in Camden Yards.
This got me thinking: have Orioles fans put Nick Markakis on a Jeter level of love from a fanbase? Nick Markakis will never be anything close to what Derek Jeter was during his career, but they do have similar qualities. Both are quiet leaders of their team who show consistency and have been on a decline in recent years. I do not disagree that Markakis deserves all of the love from the fanbase, but the whole name chanting thing was a little too much, if you ask me.
In my time growing up watching the Orioles, Markakis has always been that player that was there every single day playing his heart out, one day hoping he would get a taste of the postseason. He finally got to experience that in 2014 with a division championship and a trip to the ALCS, which ended very fast thanks to the Royals. I wasn’t any happier for anybody on that team more than I was for Markakis. He had worked so hard to get to there during his career and to have it end the way it did was very depressing. One thought on my mind that entire postseason was “is this the last time I will see Nick Markakis in an Orioles uniform?” and it might be true now.
Multiple sources: Now less than 50-50 that Markakis returns to Orioles in 2015. Once seemed to be a slam dunk: http://t.co/ZFPzabSIbZ
— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 2, 2014
I honestly did see Markakis coming back for to the Orioles, just because this is all he knows. After hearing talks slow down between the two sides, I started to think this may be the end. I also started to think about the fact that Nick Markakis is replaceable, and his replacement just may be on the free agent market right now.
I knew that Markakis had been on a decline ever since his career year in 2008 that ultimately earned him his big contract extension. I only started to care when I noticed he began to cover less ground in the outfield in 2012. After learning more about UZR, I noticed that Markakis did cover less ground in the outfield. Since 2008, when his UZR was 11.9, Markakis only had one year with it being positive: 2014, his contract year.
Another declining factor in Markakis’ game: his overall value to the team. After posting a 6.1 WAR in 2008, Markakis has not posted one higher than 2.6 (he finished with 2.5 in 2014). 2008 was also the only season where he finished with a positive dWAR.
Not a fan of sabermetrics? Well, let me look at more simple statistics to see the decline in Markakis’ game. He had not finished with a batting average above .300 since 2008 and has seen it drop below .280 in the last two seasons. He has also not finished a season with 20 or more home runs since…you guessed it: 2008. Another dropping number in Markakis’ game is only having one season with a .400 OBP or above (2008) and not having anything else higher than .370 in his career. Then again, “high OBP” and “the Orioles” do not exactly go great together.
What options are there to replace Markakis with in free agency though? Well, two named that have been tied to the Orioles are Nori Aoki and Melky Cabrera. Both players would be solid replacements with more upside than Markakis. Both players do come with some knocks, like any player. Cabrera is injury prone and has not played in more than 150 games since 2011, but is a year younger than Markakis. Aoki is 33 and has only been in the Majors for three seasons now. Aoki however, has been consistently good since coming to play in the Major Leagues.
Whatever move Dan Duquette makes will be one I support. Whether he resigns Markakis, signs another outfielder or trades for someone, Duquette has made almost all of the right moves in regards to making the Orioles a powerhouse contender year in and year out since he took over as EVP of Baseball Operations. By now, he should have earned the fan’s support of his moves, but I guess there will always be doubters.